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  • Keyword Search Volume: Tools for Estimating Search Volume & Site Traffic

    Keyword Search Volume: Tools for Estimating Search Volume & Site Traffic

    Understanding keyword search volume is critical for engaging in meaningful keyword research, but many people misunderstand it.

    Appropriate and properly implemented keyword research tool is a critical component of our expert link building services.

    We hope this post on keyword search volume will help you understand the topic better and use the tools so you can reliably predict which relevant keywords will drive more traffic to your site and produce more engagement and sales.

    Keyword Search Volume Overview

    Keyword search volume refers to how many searches for a specific keyword phrase are on a search engine over a specific time period. The major use of keyword search volume is to learn about vital SEO information, including:

    • How much traffic can a keyword drive to your site
    • How competitive a keyword is, which determines its price per click or per impression
    • Information to create site traffic estimates
    • Measuring traffic according to season

    There are countless tools on the market that estimate keyword search volume. Here we have chosen to discuss only three.

    Google Ads Keyword Planner

    Google Ads Keyword Planner

    The most common is by using what Google or search engines says about themselves with its Keyword Planner tool. Note:

    • The Google Keyword Planner is to help you research keywords for use on Google Ads, so you won’t see every keyword here.
    • You need to have an active Google Ads account or google AdWords account to use the access Keyword Planner tool.
    • The numbers you see in the Google Keyword Planner are only estimates and may combine the numbers for related keywords.
    • Volume reports provided by the Keyword Planner aren’t real-time, so it won’t help you if you need data on the hottest keywords.

    The Keyword Planner tells you the average monthly search volume, which means the average for the last year of search volume. This means the figure they give you isn’t for the entire previous month; instead, it’s the total search volume for the last 12 months divided by 12.

    It’s also important to know this free Google keyword tool doesn’t tell you whether the data is for mobile or desktop applications. Instead, the numbers Google tells you are estimates by adding volumes for various devices and search methods.

    Note that Google or search engines may show zero search volume for keyword phrases where other SEO tools show the same search volume.

    For instance, Keyword Planners may show the search volume for ‘HDMI’ and ‘high-definition multimedia interface’ as the same. But we know – logically – that more people search by the acronym; many searchers don’t even know what HDMI stands for.

    This shows the limits of the Keyword Planners, so bear this in mind.

    Ahrefs Keywords Explorer

    I regularly check Ahrefs Keywords Explorer for determining the volume and difficulty of various keywords as well as the PPC cost for bidding on them:

    In this example, you can see a comparison of the following as it relates to various digital marketing related keywords:

    • Keyword difficulty (KD) or the difficulty of ranking or bidding on a particular term. The higher the number gets toward 100, the more difficult it will be to rank for a given term.
    • Volume or search volume for English searches in the United States. “Global” provides the same data for worldwide searches. This data is measured by the month. So, for instance, 125K searches for “SEO” means that term is searched roughly that many times per month.
    • Clicks estimate how frequently that term is clicked upon being searched. A higher click-through rate usually shows the term is very targeted and good for hitting search intent. If it is a “top of the funnel” term, the click through rate is likely to be lower.
    • Cost per click indicates average estimates for what PPC advertisers are paying on a per-click basis for those terms.
    • Clicks per search estimate the number of clicks per the monthly search volume ranges indicated, another way of measuring click-through rate.
    • The return rate is a rough way to measure how frequently a given searcher might search that or topic clustered terms again in a given month.

    This data can be very helpful when comparing your site or a client’s site when looking for keywords to target and how competitive they might be for ranking.

    Clickstream Data

    Clickstream Data

    The other primary source to find search volume data is clickstream data. This information is gleaned from a sampling of users; it’s often provided from one of many browser extensions that searchers install themselves.

    Some companies swear by clickstream data but remember it’s also an estimate. Accuracy hinges on the number and kinds of users polled. Also critical are the polling methodology and the method used to arrive at the forecast.

    Here’s how clickstream data can augment or even beat Google’s Keyword Planner:

    • Clickstream data isn’t limited to Google Ad keywords or keywords that Google or search enginesdoesn’t censor.
    • It can tell the difference between slight variations of the exact keyword phrase.
    • It may provide more real-time data that includes brand-new keywords.

    But remember, volume estimates offered here are only as good as where the data comes from and the methods used.

    Is Keyword Search Volume Data Reliable?

    As we noted several times above, the search volume data you see with Keyword Planners, Keywords Explorer and clickstream data are just estimates, and there is plenty of extrapolation going on that can throw the data off.

    But estimated search volume information can be helpful to your company. You don’t need to have precise, real-world search volume data to make valid comparisons between various keyword research phrases.

    As long as the estimates are pulled from the same sources with the same methodology, you should make solid business decisions on the information.

    What About Low-Volume Keywords?

    Low Volume Keywords

    Some might think that low-volume keyword phrases aren’t worth their time. This is wrong!

    The idea that a low-traffic keyword phrase doesn’t lead to visitors and sales doesn’t play out in the real world.

    First, it’s a misconception that your search traffic depends on volume. And keywords with a lower search volume can be vital for creating compelling content.

    This is why we heavily advocate for targeting long-tail keywords in your SEO campaigns.

    Topic Clustering

    A topic cluster usually has a ‘pillar’ page that targets the high-volume keyword phrase for a relevant topic on a website. Then, many related content pages link to the pillar page that detail subtopics.

    If you do it right, the topic clustering method can generate substantial results because it tells Google or search engines you have an authoritative site on the pillar page topic, and that you’ve written a lot about it.

    Google will probably send searchers to websites that cover the user’s related content needs. For example, lower-volume keyword phrases related to the pillar page may be fantastic content ideas to write about the larger topic.

    Low-volume keyword phrases may also be longer-tail keywords, which means they relate to more specific topics than the larger term.

    What this means: Pages written for long-tail keyword research may not drive high search traffic volume, by the do a couple of crucial things for your site:

    • They pull measurable traffic that your site might not have otherwise had
    • They increase conversions because they’re written for a specific user instead of just for a general audience

    Low-Volume Keyword Phrases And Niches

    The other time lower-volume keyword phrases can be vital to your site traffic is in industries with low search volumes

    SEO companies usually focus on optimizations that produce a massive surge in traffic. But many industries and companies do well with lower-volume keyword traffic.

    But the Keyword Planner may completely ignore lower-volume keywords, so search engine optimization (SEO) types in niche industries may need to use highly advanced free keyword tools that relies on specialized sources to calculate search volumes.

    In short, when you can’t rank for competitive keywords, go where competitors aren’t.


    Search volume is a vital metric to measure potent keyword research. But you should remember that search volume metrics present an incomplete picture, so you may need to do more research to arrive at an accurate assessment.

    If you grasp the many details that influence keyword search volumes, you’ll be more effective as you conduct your keyword research.

    If you need help developing your plan with thorough research, we’re the SEO company to turn to. Contact us today!


    Chief Marketing Officer at SEO Company
    In his 9+ years as a digital marketer, Sam has worked with countless small businesses and enterprise Fortune 500 companies and organizations including NASDAQ OMX, eBay, Duncan Hines, Drew Barrymore, Washington, DC based law firm Price Benowitz LLP and human rights organization Amnesty International. As a technical SEO strategist, Sam leads all paid and organic operations teams for client SEO services, link building services and white label SEO partnerships. He is a recurring speaker at the Search Marketing Expo conference series and a TEDx Talker. Today he works directly with high-end clients across all verticals to maximize on and off-site SEO ROI through content marketing and link building. Connect with Sam on Linkedin.
    Samuel Edwards